Advocates renew push for affordable, available child care as part of reconciliation package
Staring into her son’s eyes in front of the U.S. Capitol, Jacklyn from Niagara Falls, New York explained why including support for child care in the reconciliation package is crucial for her family’s success. Behind her were members of the U.S. Senate and House, including Sens. Tim Kaine (D-VA) and Patty Murray (D-WA), who have been relentless child care advocates.
Jacklyn is a real estate assistant, a mother of three amazing kids all under the age of 10, and a member of MomsRising, a group that works to improve the economic well-being of women and families. She lives in a rural community where child care is highly inaccessible. The options are limited – there are more children who need spots than spots available in the child care programs. “Even if we could get a spot off the waitlists, there is no way we could afford it with its very high costs,” she said.
Jacklyn shared her remarks at a news conference organized last week by the National Women’s Law Center (NWLC). The purpose of the news conference was to back child care legislation introduced by Sens. Murray and Kaine. Their bill would “increase the number of families in every state who can afford child care, improve the quality of child care in every state, and establish a pilot program so that some states can test how to create a more robust system that provides a larger group of low- and middle-income children who need it with access to affordable child care,” according to an analysis published by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.
The core of the proposal — more federal funds flowing to the states — would increase the number of children receiving child care assistance by1 million or more, according to an estimate by the Center for Law and Social Policy, while also expanding the supply of child care.
In her opening remarks, NWLC President and CEO Fatima Goss Graves stated “Child care is a public good just like roads and bridges,” She believes now more than ever is an opportunity to prioritize families and invest in the future, reminding us that our children represent who our nation will become.
“The child care sector is on the brink of collapse and we have to act now to save it — or families across the country will pay the price,” Senator Murray said in a news release. “I have spoken to so many moms and parents who had to quit their jobs entirely because they either couldn’t afford child care or they couldn’t find it, and to child care workers who are being paid poverty wages and can’t make ends meet—it’s clear, this is an urgent crisis and it’s putting a huge strain on our entire economy.”
Due to inaccessible child care, Jacklyn’s husband is a stay-at-home dad so Jacklyn can be in the workforce every day from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m.. Jacklyn feels fortunate that their family has that option to make ends meet but acknowledges not everybody does. This option requires a two-parent home.
Even with her current situation, Jacklyn feels her professional aspirations are falling by the wayside due to the lack of acceptable and affordable child care. Their family is struggling to afford nutritious food, diapers, and clothing for their growing babies with Jacklyn’s husband losing any form of income to watch the kids.
Child care responsibility tends to land on the mother. Child care challenges have become a barrier to work, especially for mothers, who disproportionately take on unpaid caregiving responsibilities when their family cannot find or afford child care.
Single parents, specifically single mothers, have the hardest time finding acceptable child care. As a daughter of a single parent myself, despite my mom having a master’s degree, she could not afford to take a job during my childhood where she was able to drive my siblings and I to school and pick us up at the end of the day. Inaccessible child care was an issue before the COVID-19 pandemic but has been exaggerated over the past few years.
The first five years of children’s lives are critically important in paving the path for their future. As a nation, we must protect our children and our families by investing in child care. This is an invaluable investment in our future.